IISS: PRC Military Development "Reaching Near-Parity with the West," At Times "No Western Equivalent"


Power Poster

"Beijing’s military development has placed it on ‘near-parity’ with Western nations, with some weapons having no equivalent ... The warning comes from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) ... 'We now judge that in some capability areas, particularly in the air domain, China appears to be reaching near-parity with the West' ... One particular weapon the institute sees as a possible threat is the PL-10 short-range air-to-air missile, which 'only a handful of leading airspace nations are able to develop' ... Not only does it have superb homing capabilities and poses a threat to Western aircraft in a hypothetical armed conflict with China, Beijing also offers it for export, which would 'complicate the operations of any Western air force' anywhere it proliferates ... Another example is a long-range air-to-air missile that was noticed in a photo of a Chinese Su-27 derivative last year. The missile may be a two-stage weapon with a range of 300km ... 'When it enters service, this new system will hold at risk large high-value targets like tankers and AWACS aircraft, platforms that traditionally would safely loiter outside the range of current air-to-air weapons' ... China’s continued military modernization and its new willingness to export domestically-designed advanced military systems mark China as 'the single most important driver for the US defense deployments' ... 'highlights that Western dominance in the field of advanced weapons systems can no longer be taken for granted'"

"The PLAAF also continued its development of the Chengdu J-20 heavy fighter. Eight prototype aircraft have been built and are now being joined by production-standard aircraft. The type is likely to enter front-line service by the end of the decade. Work also continued on the Shenyang J-31 combat aircraft, though at a far slower pace than the Chengdu J-20, and as of the third quarter of 2016, no imagery of a second prototype had been released.At the same time, the PLAAF continued its attempts to address its relative weakness in heavy transport, airborne early warning (AEW), air-to-air-refuelling, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms. The first two Xian Y-20 transport aircraft were delivered to the air force in June 2016 and, assuming the aircraft’s performance is acceptable, the type will likely replace the Russian Il-76 Candid as the core of the airlift fleet. It is possible that tanker and AEW versions of the Y-20 may also emerge. Reports also appeared in the Chinese media in 2016 that the PL-10 imaging infrared air-to-air missile was entering service with the air force. The PL-10 will likely replace the PL-8 and the R-73 (AA-11 Archer) as the PLAAF’s primary short-range air-to-air missile; it is also likely that the PL-10 will be a credible offer in the export arena ... China’s comprehensive naval-modernisation programme continued to make steady progress, encompassing not just further additions to the fleet of modern, more capable combatants, but also logistic-support capabilities and developments in training and doctrine. The Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Corporation is making rapid progress in building China’s first domestically produced aircraft carrier, with the suggestion that the vessel could be ready for launch in 2017 ... it appears to be a close, although evolutionary, copy of the PLAN’s first carrier, the Liaoning ... it has been observed with up to eight Shenyang J-15 naval combat aircraft embarked ... There is now firm evidence that work is under way on the first of the anticipated Type-055 large destroyer/cruisers. Meanwhile, the PLAN’s third and fourth Type-052D multi-mission destroyers were commissioned in December 2015 and June 2016. A fifth appeared close to completion, out of a total of at least 12 of these vessels now in service or under construction. In addition, more Type-054A frigates and Type-056A corvettes were added to the PLAN’s inventory. Other significant additions during 2016 included the commissioning of a fourth Type-071 landing platform dock, which will be assigned to the East Sea Fleet, boosting the PLAN’s amphibious capabilities. (The South Sea Fleet received the first three Type-071s.) Speculation persisted in 2016 about plans for an amphibious-aviation ship, which would be a logical next step for the PLAN’s growing amphibious capabilities. Perhaps of equal significance was the commissioning of three more Type-903A large replenishment ships in 2016, as part of the modernisation and strengthening of the PLAN’s logistic support. Beijing also announced the decision to construct a naval facility in Djibouti. These developments reinforce the impression that the PLAN’s blue-water capabilities are maturing. ... It is still unclear whether the Jin-class Type-094 ballistic-missile submarines have begun regular patrols, and if not, why not, since the boats would seem to have been ready for some time. There is also uncertainty over the operational status of the latest, improved variant of the Shang-class Type-093 nuclear-powered attack submarine, which features a vertical-launch system believed capable of accommodating the YJ-18 advanced anti-ship cruise missile"


For these reasons and myriad others, I question the Eagle's wisdom in continuing to provoke the Bear and the Dragon.